The fact that Benedict XVI ended his reign as pope through retirement rather than death makes it somewhat premature to write a retrospective on his time in office. As a great admirer of his, however, I want to comment on one aspect of his work—a global issue on which I think he was in error.
In 2006 Benedict delivered a lecture at Regensburg, Germany, in which he appeared to describe Islam as an evil religion that owed its success to violence and forced conversion. Muslims, naturally, were furious and demanded a retraction. Whatever we think about that furor, media reports ignored another point that Benedict really did make, one which is of far greater significance to Christians. Regensburg should have begun a searching debate about the foundations of Christian theology in a global age.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.